Staff member Helen Heelis and owner and director Vicki Burow outside Gundagai Street?s Lilly Pilly Early Learning Centre,
Staff member Helen Heelis and owner and director Vicki Burow outside Gundagai Street?s Lilly Pilly Early Learning Centre,

Kids? trust stolen

By BELINDA SCOTT

THIEVES stole more than goods from Vicki and Marcus Burow when they broke into their Lilly Pilly Early Learning Centre in Coffs Harbour's Gundagai Street early yesterday morning.

They stole the young couple's trust in their quiet residential neighbourhood.

Thieves broke a back window, jemmied an interior door and stole valuable equipment and a sum of cash from the Centre early on Wednesday morning, a total loss estimated at more than $10,000 by Mr and Mrs Burow.

The theft was the largest haul from a 'raid' on childcare centres in the Coffs Harbour and Sawtell area, which saw three centres broken into during the night and an alarm go off on a fourth.

This follows an incident on April 7 when another child care centre in Coffs Harbour was broken into.

Vicki Burow, the owner and director of Lilly Pilly, said the loss would have a huge impact on the centre, which is in in the middle of preparing for renewal of accreditation, a major administrative task.

"It will put us so far back I can't even get my head around it," Mrs Burow said.

Vicki Burow and her husband, Marcus, were perched on toddler-sized chairs and operating the business from mobile phones yesterday morning as they waited for police fingerprinting officers outside the cordoned off section of the building.

Mrs Burow took over the centre three years ago and said they had never previously had a break in.

Neighbours apparently heard noises about 1am yesterday at the Gundagai Street centre but thought these were simply from the couple's after-hours renovation work on the building.

At the Hopscotch Boambee Pre-School and Long Day Care Centre in Lamberts Road a window was forced open and a sum of cash taken some time between 6pm on Tuesday and 7.30am on Wednesday. The director said it was the first break-in in the centre's 10 years of operation.

"It's not very much but it's really sad for the kids and parents to know their money has been taken," said the owner of Hopscotch. "Even though it's a business we feel trespassed on."

At Boambee Village Pre-School and Long Day Care Centre, intruders dislodged an office window to gain entry and stole a small amount of cash ? and a box of fundraising chocolates.

Supervisor Belinda McFadyen said it was the first break-in in nine years, and she was just grateful that nothing had been wrecked.

Senior Constable Greg Neville from Sawtell Police said it appeared the same people had been involved in the two Boambee incidents since both entry methods were the same.

Happy Days Pre-School and Long Day Care Centre in Harbour Drive was broken into on April 7.

Centre director Janene Williams said the intruders gained entry through a bathroom door and rummaged through the centre's letterboxes, but left empty-handed.

Renae Knight, the owner and director of the Three Bears Cottage childcare centre in Scarba Street said the alarm at her centre went off about 7.30pm on Tuesday, but there was no sign of anyone trying to break in.

"Thieves often see childcare centres as easy targets, because they don't have safes, etc, but we've always been pretty diligent," Ms Knight said.

Many of the child care centres spoken to said they were reviewing and in some cases adding to their security arrangements.



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